Janna and Brian Bentley are a couple from Mesa, Arizona with seven children. They’re generally known by their friends and neighbors as wonderful people. Last March, however, one of their boys disappeared. It wasn’t unusual for him to run away, but it was getting late that night and no one could find him.
Brian was working late, and Janna looked for their son everywhere, to no avail. When Brian got home around 2:00 a.m., they looked some more, but had no luck… so they went to bed.
The next morning, when their son still hadn’t come home, they did another search with neighbors before finally calling the police. They did a helicopter search and told the neighborhood they were looking for a missing boy. (Also disturbing: There were juvenile sex offenders living nearby.)
It wasn’t until later that morning that their son was finally found. He had been hiding in the bushes at the neighbor’s house with a pillow and blanket.
So here’s the question: Did the parents do anything wrong by waiting until morning to call the police?
The Bentleys say no. They knew their son was around; they just didn’t know where. They also had assurance from God that everything was okay.
During the search, a police officer asked Bentley why she didn’t call the police before going to bed, she said, “I prayed about it and felt calm.” She also told the officer that God told her that her son was safe, according to the report.
The police say otherwise. On their recommendation, the city prosecutor charged the Bentleys with “child neglect,” a crime that could put them in jail for up to six months. They were offered a plea deal that involves a month of jail each followed by years of probation.
“Neither Janna or Brian seemed to understand the seriousness of their … child being gone all night,” a Mesa family advocate detective said in the report.
“There is concern the parents will not contact the authorities if (the child) runs away again. There is concern the family’s religion/faith impairs their judgment,” according to the document posted on a Facebook page supporting the Bentleys.
There’s a campaign on Facebook defending what the Bentleys did, calling the actions of the police a “gross abuse of power,” but it’s unclear if the video will have any effect on their charges.
Part of it calls out the police for their “lack of religious sensitivity.” But that’s part of the problem. These parents didn’t do what they should’ve done because God assured them everything was okay. What if something had happened to their son? What would have become of that excuse?
How is it any different from parents who refuse to take their kids to the doctor because they believe God will heal them automatically? Sometimes they heal on their own; other times, it leads to disaster.
There might be a case for letting these parents off the hook because they have a clean record otherwise, but the police weren’t wrong to note that their faith led them to make a poor decision. If their son did indeed disappear, every hour the police weren’t on the hunt was valuable time wasted.
(Thanks to Ron for the link)